Blaming the Victim: America's Journalists Sound off on the Weiner Campaign

Like everyone else following American politics right now, I have a bone to pick with Anthony Weiner. But that's not the purpose of the words that follow. I'm here in an attempt to constructively lambast the twittersphere (oxymoronical as those words may seem) for their response to the latest development in the Weiner campaign. If nothing else, I feel the need to bear witness to the extremely misogynistic social construct exhibited by some of America's finest journalists in what may be the Weiner campaign's final hours (finally -- fingers are crossed).

In case you missed it, Weiner's communications director very thoroughly trashed a young woman intern using the choice word "slutbag," among other expletives. I would avoid the word and replace it with punctuation to merely suggest offense, but must be used. Why? Because theTwittersphere dialogue revolved entirely around playing a game of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" with the word "slutbag". Let's take a gander at some examples, shall we? For the sake of civility that these journalists did not have, I'll withhold names.

"Carlos Danger and The Slut Bags

And the follow up:

"This Friday at CBGB's it's Carlos Danger and the Slutbags with special guests the Dick's Picks."

"Please remember to place all slutbags under the slut in front of you or in the overslut compartment."

""Excuse me, is that your slutbag? Such small words can mean so much."

"Are there designer slutbags? A Givenchy slutbag? So French. A Chloe slutbag? The Hobo slutbag? A Kelly Slutbag? Le Birkin Slutbag?"

"Very Disciplined Slut Journalist Resists Slutbag Jokes"

Before anything else, let me say this: The United States is a country of free speech. This is a blessing and a curse of democracy. But even the curse is a blessing in disguise -- without the public airing of these baseless comments, there would be no uncovering of a societal fact: the glass ceiling. It's still there.

Why does this particular dialogue illustrate the perpetuity of a patriarchy? I could go on forever, but I'll point out three main things. Even before these three main points: In case you didn't catch why making "slutbag" jokes isn't acceptable, it's because "slutbag" is a demeaning slur against women. The fact that "slutbag" poured out of the Twittersphere the way I pour my morning coffee (for clarification: quickly and gratuitously) emphasizes my first point:

Participatory ignorance. There were men offenders and women offenders. The first offender, communications director Barbara Morgan, is a woman. It was an equal-opportunity offending ground. Women were retweeting some of the most blatantly sexist of the comments, and all I could do was stare, mouth agape, at their complete ignorance of the fact that they were recycling demeaning words -- words that in reality are meant to hurt. Exhibit A, Tweet by Anonymous One:

"(In that comms director's defense, EVERYONE who works on a campaign is one candidate dick pic away from a rant like that)."

I know firsthand that life on a campaign trail can be nothing short of grueling, but setbacks never excuse explosive reactions using derogatory language. If "everyone" were this close to a rant of this caliber, there would be a lot more rants of this caliber. Besides, I would bet the collective worth of all my college textbooks that I'm not the only one who would have quit Weiner's campaign after even just a whiff of a first "dick pic." Much less a second one, or a third, or a -- well, you get my drift.

Point number two: deflection and victim-blaming. Change the topic, quick! Exhibit B, Tweets by Anonymous Two and Anonymous Three:

"Am I the only one who found the intern's piece unreadable and untrustworthy?"

"I dunno, and I also kinda think the intern sounds like a social-climbing mercenary hobag. I'm oddly #teamweiner on this one."

I have a great idea: Let's keep up the sexist name-calling and simultaneously find a way to distract people. Hashtags are distracting right? (Sidenote: Something tells me #teamweiner wasn't such a popular hashtag this evening.) At any rate, this is victim-blaming at its finest. It's clearly Olivia Nuzzi's fault for wanting to speak out against a campaign for which she signed non-disclosure forms. Never mind the fact that he's committed multiple moral offenses and has already hurt a number of women. Never mind the fact that his apologies have been, at best, half-hearted. In the dialogue surrounding Morgan's derogatory comments, Nuzzi's personality and/or intentions have absolutely nothing to do with anything. Victim-blaming is never anything but a veiled attempt to justify wrongdoing: in this case, to justify a whole community using and perpetuating a misogynist slur against a former political intern.

Which brings me to point number three: perpetuated ignorance. If it isn't already clear enough how the Ywittersphere spread the term slutbag far and beyond necessary proportions, I offer evidence in Exhibit C, Tweet by Anonymous Four:

"I wish everyone in politics would be as frank as this comm director. The world would be a better place."

Oh yes, me too. I wish that all politicians would do is run around swearing at each other and having Most Derogatory Comment competitions, because if there's one thing this country needs, it's more name-calling going on in D.C. Let's get something straight: Barbara Morgan was not being "frank." Barbara Morgan lost her cool because she's stressed out, and she thought she was off the record, and we all make mistakes. She is sorry. But she was not being frank. To wish such a form of "frankness" on American society would be to wish complete and utter chaos.

I think Congress has that chaos thing under control, so let's just try to keep things a little more civil from here on out, shall we? To end with Exhibit D from one of the few non-misogyny-perpetuating participators last night (@DougSaunders also deserves a Civility Shout-Out Award):

"@chashomans: Let's print the last hour of Twitter and put it in a time capsule for future generations. The Great Collapse will make so much more sense."

Amen, brother.